Thursday, 30 April 2015

Asbestos in Schools from Joe Bailey

AiS and JUAC Key Recommendations for Asbestos in Schools  #IWMD15 
1. There is a major problem of asbestos in schools. 86% of schools in the country contain asbestos, it is now all old and there is extensive evidence that in some schools it is regularly disturbed so that children and school staff are exposed. The inevitable result is that people are dying. 

2. 291 school teachers have died of mesothelioma since 1980, with 158 dying in the last ten years. School cleaners, cooks, caretakers, teaching assistants and school secretaries are also dying. But they are the tip of the iceberg as for every teacher there are twenty to thirty children who are more vulnerable to exposure to asbestos than adults, the younger the child the greater the risk. It is estimated that each year between 200 to 300 people will die from their asbestos exposure as a child at school. The estimate was made based on exposures in the 1960s and 1970s, but all the asbestos is now old and many schools have not been well maintained – so the exposures continue. 

3. The following are key recommendations of the Asbestos in Schools Group and the Joint Union Asbestos Committee:

* The increased vulnerability of children to asbestos must underlie all future asbestos policies for schools. 

* A risk benefit analysis should be carried out, and made public, that assesses how many staff and pupils are likely to have died and will die from their asbestos exposure at school. It should assess how much it costs to manage asbestos in the nation’s schools and how much a long term strategy of asbestos removal would cost.  As part of that the Government should assess the extent of the asbestos problem in schools.

* Asbestos can be one of the most expensive items in maintaining, refurbishing or demolishing a school. But the Government is unaware of the scale of the asbestos problem in schools and they specifically, and inexplicably, excluded asbestos from the £20 million audit of the condition of school buildings. Because of this any future financial forecasts will be meaningless. AiS has always recommended that there should be an audit of the extent, type and condition of asbestos in the nation’s schools so that long term policy can be set, financial forecasts made and those schools with the most dangerous asbestos can be identified and priority given for the removal of asbestos.  

* Asbestos insulation board that is accessible to children in schools should never be classed as ‘low’ risk. It should at the very least be enclosed, but AiS recommend that it should be removed.  

* Asbestos training should be mandatory for school governors, headteachers, teachers and all support staff with the training tailored to their role. 

* As the majority of schools will have to manage their asbestos long into the future a system must be reintroduced that ensures they are maintaining effective and safe standards of asbestos management. AiS recommends that proactive inspections of the standards of asbestos management in all schools should be reintroduced. They should carried out by HSE. 

* There has always been a lack of openness over asbestos in schools. It is not acceptable that a few should know the facts and for those facts to be kept from others. AiS has always recommended that a policy of openness is adopted so that people are told the truth.

* So long as asbestos remains in schools it is inevitable that it will be disturbed and damaged so that children and staff are exposed. AiS recommends that the government adopts a long term strategy for the removal of all asbestos from schools, with priority being given to those schools that contain the most dangerous asbestos. Only then will the problem of asbestos in schools be finally eradicated.
AiS and JUAC Statement for International Workers Memorial Day  28 April   #IWMD15
Asbestos in Schools, AiS :  Joint Union Asbestos Committee, JUAC:

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